PROVIDENCE — On June 8, the eve of Pentecost, when the church invokes the Holy Spirit with renewed fervor and intensity, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin ordained two men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Providence.
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At the beginning of the Rite of Ordination, the ordinandi, Deacons Brendan Rowley, 34, and Eric Silva, 28, announced they were “present” as each made a profound bow to the bishop when called forward to be presented for Holy Orders.
In his homily that followed, Bishop Tobin offered his gratitude to all who nurtured them along the path to this day, from their parents, family and friends to their teachers, pastors, priests and leaders at St. John Seminary in Boston, where each underwent their formation for the priesthood.
“Their vocation began in the heart of God himself, of course. But their response has been nourished by you … Thank you for supporting them along the way,” the bishop said, asking everyone to redouble their efforts to promote vocations to the priesthood.
He also expressed gratitude to the men presented for ordination.
“We are deeply grateful for your generosity in responding to God’s call with open and generous hearts. Our prayer is that you will always be faithful and joyful servants of the Lord,” Bishop Tobin said.
He noted that the challenges of the priesthood can at times erode the joy those in ministry experience — including Jesus himself — and that each priest should manifest joy, confidence and courage in his ministry.
“No one responds to an uncertain trumpet as St. Paul reminds us,” Bishop Tobin said.
“Without a doubt you will encounter difficulties and disappointments in your life and ministry. But in good times and in bad there must be something much deeper and much more profound than a superficial happiness. There must be a quiet, confident joy that underlines your life and your ministry as a priest. A joy born of the knowledge that you have been chosen by the Lord and that you are doing his work. And even in the midst of difficulties you have very, very good news to share with others.”
Following the homily, the elect expressed their resolve to carry out the office of the priesthood in accord with the mind of Christ and of the Church, under the direction of the bishop. Each kneeled before the bishop as they placed their hands between his and made a promise of obedience.
Then during the Litany of Supplication, each lay prostrate on the floor in a gesture of supplication remembering that service to God and his holy people requires genuine humility in the example of Christ.
In the most ancient part of the rite, the bishop then followed the form of the Apostles in laying his hands upon each of the elect. Through this act, and the Prayer of Ordination, the two were ordained by God as priests forever.
After all of the other priests present then imposed their hands upon them, the vesting of the new priests began with Father Brendan Rowley being assisted by Father Marcel Taillon, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Narragansett, and Father Eric Silva being assisted by Father Anthony Verdelotti, pastor of St. Mark Parish in Cranston.
Bishop Tobin then anointed the hands of his new priests with the oil of Sacred Chrism in order that they be consecrated to sanctify the people of God.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Tobin gathered near the altar with Father Silva and Father Rowley for their first official photo as priests.
“I’ve never felt so many emotions at the same time,” Father Silva told Rhode Island Catholic as the enormity of the day began to unfold for him at that moment.
“I feel totally overwhelmed and totally at peace all at the same time. I’m just so humbled to be here to have made it to this moment to be a priest of Jesus Christ.”
Father Rowley expressed his appreciation to all who guided him on the path to this day.
“I’m just thankful to God for calling me to be his priest. I’m thankful to Bishop Tobin for ordaining me and to all my brother priests who’ve supported me throughout my formation — my time in the seminary — and to my family who’ve been by my side praying for me. I’m just overwhelmed,” he said, before he and Father Silva stepped forward to offer individual blessings upon the hundreds of family, friends and supporters in attendance to witness their ordination.
With the parents of both newly ordained having received their blessings from their sons within the context of the Mass, Theresa Silva and her husband Antonio looked on with admiration as their son, along with Father Rowley, began to impart their blessings on the long lines forming in front of them.
“It was the most glorious day; It’s unbelievable,” Silva said. “I feel such a privilege and an honor to be here with my son — who’s had so much help and love and blessings by everyone — and all these wonderful people. It’s totally amazing. It’s beyond belief.”
Irene Macedo, Father Silva’s grandmother, cast a beaming smile as she waited for her blessing.
“I’m so proud of him. It’s a gift,” she said.
Paula Bucci, a godparent of Father Silva, said she is honored to have a priest in the family.
“It’s such an honor. It’s a joyous occasion,” Bucci said. “He’s going to be a wonderful priest. Now we have a priest in the family and it’s truly a blessing.”
James Rowley said he felt blessed as he and his wife Deborah watched their son offer his first blessings.
“It was just a beautiful ceremony and we’re both so happy for him because he’s happy,” Rowley said. “This is what he’s meant to do. I remember telling Father Taillon six years ago that all I want is for him to be happy.”
Brendan’s brother Tyler said he was very happy for his brother as well as for the Church.
“I’m happy for the Church that they’re getting a good priest,” Tyler Rowley said. “More than anything this is about the Church. There’s a sense of pride there, but the big picture is that the church needs priests and they need good priests. Brendan is going to be a good priest. He’s a good man, and most importantly he truly is convicted in the teachings of the Church. He doesn’t compromise and he’s not going to compromise as a priest and that’s what I’m most excited about — that the Diocese of Providence has another good, young priest.”
Father Christopher Murphy, the current vocations director for the diocese who will become the rector of Our Lady of Providence Seminary on July 1, said there’s no better day in the diocese each year than Ordination day.
“We have two new priests for our diocese and they’re both wonderful men and they’re going to serve us very well in the future. We’re very blessed,” Father Murphy said of Fathers Rowley and Silva, who are both graduates of Bishop Hendricken and St. John Seminary.
“We’re very excited for them both and looking forward to having two new brother priests.”
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